Do It For Me

I admit to feeling some degree of dissonance with a local, well respected “brand experience” agency. While my sentiment should not be taken as mean-spirited, I think it reflects the general perception of inequity in what is, invariably, the transactional relationship between companies and consumers.

Several months ago, I reached out to said agency — let’s just call them Gumdrop — as one on a very short list of boutique branding agencies. I was in search of work and partnership and co

nversation, and while I was admittedly serving my own interests, I had no intention of imposing without offering something of value. They gave me a very prompt and courteous reply and noted that my timing was inopportune. No worries.

A few weeks later I was embroiled in a curious project (a pandemic flu “game” which happened to launch, coincidentally, as the swine flu pandemic was announced) that I thought made for a good story. Remembering their receptiveness to my initial introduction, I sent Gumdrop a summary of the project — an excerpt of a blog post I was writing on the topic. To that they replied “Please take me off your mailing list.”

Frankly, I get it. We’ve gotta remain vigilant against the waves of worthless emails (and I note that I was, in some folks’ opinions, contributing to the problem). Even though my email to Gumdrop was not because they were part of a mailing list, any individual recipient has the right to say “please stop”. I acknowledged as much in my final reply to them months ago, and still believe it now.

Which is why it was much to my surprise that I recently received Gumdrop’s email newsletter (without ever opting in, that I can recall). In it, Gumdrop explained the

campaigns that they feel make for a good story. And — I think you can see what I’m getting at here — I likewise unsubscribed.

I reckon the mistake made by our respective companies is that we were more interested in telling our own stories and cheering our own efforts than giving a gift. And as brand marketers both, we should perhaps rethink that approach.

In the interest of breaking the cycle, I “spammed” my Gumdrop contact with an original limerick as small token of my commitment to their delight. For what it’s worth:

Greg’s 82 Volkswagen, “Spence”
Was a time machine (well, in a sense)
By the time eighty-eight
Was his traveling rate
‘Twas seventy five minutes hence

The Conversation That Wasn’t

Discussion threads are legion. They are one of the more prominent exemplars of the new communications paradigm. Their existence in places where they heretofore have not existed is generally a welcome thing. I want to know what people think of that editorial on GISS weather data. The editorial alone is not enough.
There are lots of ways in which the discussion thread as a model could be improved. But I’d like to take issue with one very simple way in which I believe they’re misused; or rather poorly implemented. I’m talking about chronological inversion. I don’t want to read the most recent contributions to the discussion first. Who would?
Take this ESPN discussion thread about Barack Obama’s suggestion that the BCS add a playoff as an example. I can only assume that the strategic goal driving the decision to invert the discussion is the sense that always having fresh content at the top of the thread means more traffic. Which may be true; both my conjecture and the conjecture of my conjecture. But even so, I submit that the inversion severely undermines the quality of the discussion. In fact, I think it encourages grandstanding and truculence and discourages actual, y’know, discussion.
It is notable (to my mind anyway) that generally, blogs don’t do this. For the most part, it is the entrenched, old media that does this. Which makes sense. The entrenched media are like the adherents of phlogiston theory at a time when Lavoisier was demonstrating its failure. The entrenched media are like H.M Warner pronouncing in 1927 that, “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” The entrenched media seem to think it will be 1992 forever.

Let me guess: Gozer worshippers.

[belated entry; busy is good]
IDEO is listening.
With no more nudging than our recent bloggy squawk, the revered designistas rocketed to bigwidesky some replacement method cards, a deftly penned note, personal contact card, and a paperclip we’ve dubbed “le sex bomba”. An impressive response, for sure, from an organizational monstrosity that understands the inescapable gravity of personal, human customer service [as Eliot noted earlier with uncharacteristic brevity, customer service is marketing]. And given that we really ain’t nobody to them, well, their attention feels nice.
[We're still deliberating whether or not IDEO is just playing along with our earlier conspiratorial suspicions, or if they've inadvertently included some proprietary scrap: check out this curious sketch on one sheet of their packing paper.]

Bored vicariously.

During our recent San Francisco travels, Skye and I were disrupted by the last of the Universal Soldiers. His name’s Justin, so hints his URL, and he’s revolutionizing something or another with an idea that was bound to come about sooner or later: 24/7 real-time first-person, erm, programming. Though I reckon his is a case study in content-second webcrap, don’t take my word for it. Check out for yourself the exciting highlights of his first week of broadcast, including “sleeping” and “cleaning up after a party” — just like your own life, except in lousy resolution.
[Still, props for follow-through.]

Getting the message.

I was wrong. My initial distaste for Windows Live Messenger’s Whatchoo Listenintoo? gimmick was unfounded. This is actually an ingenious feature. Provided they aren’t merely shuffling through a random playlist, my conversee’s current choice of music reveals a level of communicative nuance and emotional subtlety beyond even the most winkety of emoticons. And when Gregtober77 writes that “painting, sculpture, opera, ballet, poetry and theater shouldn’t bother considering ordinary people” while listening to Cinderella’s “Heartbreak Station”, there’s something to be said for subtext indeed.
In an effort to further the intimacy (and perhaps irony) of Messenger convos, perhaps the next version should also indicate when a partner “is deleting a message”, as it does when they’re writing one.